You know you want to start a business. You can’t wait to tell your boss “I’m out of here” and be your own boss. Only one thing stands in your way: You need a business idea.
Oh, you might have a general idea of starting a business in a certain industry. For instance, maybe you’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, but should it be a chic dinner spot, a cozy breakfast café, or an ethnic eatery? Or maybe you have no idea what type of business to start.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Legendary stories aside, few entrepreneurs grow up knowing exactly what they want to do. If you aren’t sure what type of business to start, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur. It just means you need to take some extra steps to come up with a business idea. Here are four steps to follow.
Inspire yourself by gathering as much information as possible about business in general, small business, and trends that relate to business. If you’re considering a specific industry, get lots of information about that industry, too. For example, if you think you might want to start a restaurant, read restaurant industry publications and websites. Visit every restaurant in your area. Visit competitors to restaurants, such as food courts, bars, grab-and-go eateries, and mobile food trucks. You never know where inspiration will come from.
What do your favorite companies have in common? Maybe you’re hooked on Amazon because it makes your life super simple. Or you might be a fan of the local independent sandwich shop where the staff is so friendly and knows your order in advance. Perhaps there’s a little boutique where you can always find unique gifts for your friends. Note down everything that comes to mind about why you keep patronizing these companies—amazing customer service, unique products, the best pastrami you’ve ever had, or whatever keeps you coming back.
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In a typical day, what frustrates you? It doesn’t need to be a big thing—even a little task you wish was easier to do could inspire a business idea. If enough other people feel the same way, you might have found your brilliant idea. If you and your family love sushi, but there isn’t a decent sushi restaurant within 50 miles, what can you do? If there’s sufficient demand, you could start a sushi restaurant, start a sushi delivery service, or offer to sell local grocery stores fresh prepared sushi daily. Survey your family, friends, and coworkers to uncover their frustrations and you’ll get even more ideas. Some of the most successful businesses out there arose from unmet needs.
By now, you’ll have dozens of possible business ideas. Now it’s time to narrow them down. Get friends, family members, and business people you know together to see what they think. Then get some impartial people in the target market you’re considering (such as sushi lovers) to tell you what they’d want to see in a business serving their sushi cravings.